The Beach Boys AND Brian Wilson are touring, separately
Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys is 80 today. I’ve written about the individual and group quite often. Way back in 2007, I noted 15 Big Ones, an album I have only on vinyl that I had not and have not listened to recently.
A decade ago, I indicated my favorite Beach Boys songs. The list hasn’t substantially changed. God Only Knows remains at #1, enhanced every time I watch the end of the 2003 movie Love, Actually. If anything, my love for that song was further improved by the BBC Music version from 2014, which I wrote about here.
I reviewed the movie Love and Mercy here. In that post, I also noted the film I’ll Be Me, about former Beach Boy Glen Campbell’s farewell tour.
My favorite series in this blog might have been the family bands, bands with family members, that I undertook in 2014. Of course, I had to write about the Wilson brothers.
Who ARE the Beach Boys?
I noticed that Chicago and Brian Wilson will be performing at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY on July 17 with founding Beach Boy Al Jardine occasional member Blondie Chaplin.
Meanwhile, the Beach Boys will be at the same venue on August 18, with founding member Mike Love and longtime group participant Bruce Johnston. The opening act is The Temptations, which has a single lineage.
For me, it’s difficult to think about which is the REAL group. The last time there was no question was a decade ago, when Brian Wilson, Love, Jardine, Johnston, and early member David Marks, put out an album That’s Why God Made the Radio. The “Beach Boys break a record by expanding their span of Billboard 200 top 10s to 49 years and one week. They first graced the top 10 with Surfin’ U.S.A. the week of June 15, 1963.” Then they toured for a limited time.
In any case, happy birthday, Brian Wilson. I wonder what he thinks about that Bare Naked Ladies song?
a blackbird, a Martian, an operatic soprano, a small child, and a bebop trumpet
“There is something almost superhuman about the range and technique of Bobby McFerrin,” Newsweek noted. “He sounds, by turns, like a blackbird, a Martian, an operatic soprano, a small child, and a bebop trumpet.”
Back in the early 1980s, I had heard of this a capella singer who performed in the jazz mode, making near orchestral sounds with his voice and body, named Bobby McFerrin. I was familiar with him mostly because every album had a some pop music covers. [Here is a live cover version of the Beatles’ Blackbird.]
In the summer of 1988, I was in San Diego, riding in the car of my sister’s friend Donald, when I heard a song called “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” for the first time. I thought, “That could be a big hit in southern California, but I don’t know if anyone else will buy it.” Of course, it hit the national charts on July 30, and went to #1 for two weeks, starting on September 30. (Here’s one video, and this the video featuring McFerrin and Robin Williams.
Skip to in 1989, when he formed a ten-person ‘Voicestra’ which he featured on his 1990 album Medicine Music. I happened to catch McFerrin and Voicestra one morning on NBC-TV’s Today show. After a couple songs, I recall that Bryant Gumbel, then the co-host of the show, made an observation. McFerrin had said in a previous interview that he would no longer perform “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, his only #1 hit. Now Gumbel understood why. Sweet in the Morning from Medicine Music, featuring Voicestra. Discipline, Featuring Robert McFerrin & Voicestra
I bought about a half dozen copies of that album to give as Christmas presents in 1990.
I was watching that episode with our brand-new new church choir director, Eric. He was crashing at our apartment until he found a place of his own. A couple years later, he arranged the McFerrin version of the 23rd Psalm for three guys in the choir to sing. Bob, Tim, and with me performed it , with me singing the highest part, all falsetto. On the recording, McFerrin sings all three vocal tracks, overdubbed, himself, which you can hear HERE. McFerrin has also worked in collaboration with instrumental performers including pianists Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, and Joe Zawinul, drummer Tony Williams, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. This is Ma and McFerrin’s version of Ave Maria.
My wife and I had the great good fortune to see Bobby McFerrin live at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on August 6, 1999. From the review, now apparently offline:
Whether conducting the classics, improvising on an original tune plucked from thin air or cavorting within the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the affable McFerrin charms all in his wake.
Finding descriptive labels for the multitalented McFerrin seems futile. His talent is so broad and diverse that there seems to be nothing he can’t do well, including stand-up comedy. There’s a serious side, too, as the wunderkind leads the likes of the Philly through compositions by major composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Felix Mendelssohn.
McFerrin’s uncanny ability to do “voices” put the audience on the floor with all the characters from “Oz,” the most memorable of which was Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch line — “Come here, my little pretty!” [This was HYSTERICAL.]
McFerrin invited singers in the audience who knew the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria” to sing along. McFerrin sang every note of Bach’s rippling arpeggios for accompaniment, while several audience soloists sang Gounod’s wonderful melody over the top. [This was absolutely extraordinary. One of the soloists was only a few rows in front of us.]
The Philly sang (yes, sang) the “William Tell Overture,” for encore. [A hoot.]
As an Amazon review says: “Despite the undeniable uniqueness of his gift, Bobby’s music is always accessible and inviting. When he invites his fans to sing along, as he almost always does, few can resist. Inclusiveness, play, and the universality of voices raised together in song are at the heart of Bobby’s art.
“Bobby McFerrin was exposed to a multitude of musical genres during his youth–classical, R&B, jazz, pop and world musics. ‘When you grow up with that hodgepodge of music, it just comes out. It was like growing up in a multilingual house,’ he says.
“Bobby McFerrin continues to explore the musical universe, known and unknown.”
Toward the end of the night, Janet Jackson showed photos of her father Joe Jackson, who passed away just last month.
The Saratoga Performing Arts Center or SPAC, just 35 miles north of Albany, is a venue where I’ve seen dozens of concerts. But none recently until I saw Janet Jackson last month with my friend Mary from church.
Janet is the youngest of the musical Jackson clan who I used to watch as Penny during the latter days of of the TV show Good Times. The Times Union reviewer is correct, that she “is one of the most important and successful artists ever.”
I’ll admit that I was much more familiar with the early work of Janet Jackson, the Control (1986) and especially the Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989) albums. Fortunately, she performed generous chunks from each.
It was clear that she wanted to both address the State of the World, the title of the opening video as well as the name of the tour, and to have her fans have a dance party. At 52, she has a LOT of energy, as did her eight dancers, along with a four-piece band and a DJ.
The Troy Record reviewer noted: “Toward the end of the night Jackson showed photos of her father Joe Jackson, who passed away just last month, during her 1997 hit Together Again. Michael Jackson, Janet’s brother, also showed up on the stage’s big screen during Scream, a song they released together in 1995.
We were glad to have gone. As Mary noted, “Fun show, great music, amazing dancing.” We were REALLY glad that it didn’t rain, because we had lawn seats and did not want to be sitting in a sea of mud. That’s something the younger selves could have endured. My thanks to my ticket benefactor, so the only expenditure was the $10 parking charge.
It’s odd that I haven’t been to SPAC in a while. I saw Joni Mitchell there in 1974 (Miles of Aisles tour), Talking Heads in 1984 (Stop Making Sense), Bobby McFerrin in 1999 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, other orchestra and ballet performances, at least a half dozen Jazz Festivals, and the 1998 folk festival with Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez and many others.
I recognize the library as the remedy to all of life’s problems.
Jingle gave me an award, and the rules of the award say – they ALWAYS say – you’re supposed to tell seven things about yourself. Well, OK, but I’m going to cheat and tell a story, with the items thus revealed.
The Wife, at my encouragement, went to see Bill T. Jones at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center a week ago, on Thursday night while I stayed home with the daughter.
1. I appreciate dance, but don’t go out of my way to see it.
My wife went online to order the tickets on Wednesday, but you’re supposed to print your ticket or tickets, which basically is a bar code or a bunch of bar codes. We experienced the same thing when we went to see Cats at Proctors recently.
3. I hate the cost-saving measure (on their part) of having the customer have to print the ticket.
Oh, and not incidentally, these tickets, almost invariably, are UGLY. I have tickets to shows I went to years or even decades ago that I’ve kept; these are NOT keepers.
Well, our desktop computer was being cranky – again – and the Wife ordered the tickets on the laptop, from which we had never printed.
I suggested rehooking the Internet connection doohickey –
4. I am not particularly technologically savvy, except in the eyes of those who are even less so
to the desktop, see if it worked again, and try to print from there.
Thursday night, I get home from work, and the Wife said she didn’t print the ticket yet. Yikes – had she called me, I would have printed the ticket at work and brought it home.
5. I HATE dealing with things at the last minute when it is avoidable; sometimes, it’s not avoidable, but…
She said that I said that I could just take the printer cable to the laptop and print that way. I said that’s NOT what I said. I said to take the Internet cable and reconnect it to the desktop and try to print from there.
6. I HATE it when people say that I said things I didn’t say.
So I made the switch, but unfortunately, the desktop was dormant for so long that I was going to have to reboot it – WHICH TAKES FOREVER – and it’s now 6:30 pm for an 8:00 show that’s a half-hour away.
I said, “You should go to the library and print your ticket from there.”
7. I recognize the library as the remedy to all of life’s problems.
And so she did, successfully, print her ticket at our neighborhood library – YAY, neighborhood libraries! – went to the show and had an enjoyable time.
And after she left, I DID try to link the printer to the laptop, but the laptop required software for which I did not immediately know the location. *** And I’m supposed to bestow this award on others. If you are reading this, and I’ve never bestowed anything on you before, consider yourself bestowed.